Are Bowings Really So Bad?
Via the twittersphere:
@fEARnoMUSIC: Hey composers! Please don’t put bowings in unless you have played the instrument you are bowing for for at least 30 years. Thx! Mwah! Luv u!
@ElissaMilne: Really?! (re no bowings!) I’m assuming you mean up/down indications, not all slurring?!!
@harryfiddler: Articulation, yes. Bowings, no. Unless you want a particular effect, in which case you get a string player to help you.
@harryfiddler: I guess it’s like fingering on a piano? You wouldn’t presume to dictate fingering, although you do indicate articulation.
@fEARnoMUSIC: Yes, I’m talking about up/down bow indications. Let us figure out our own bowings based on your articulation/dynamic markings.
So, is it really so bad for composers to mark bowings?
I can understand that string players will undoubtedly have more familiarity with what is comfortable or familiar than non-string-playing composers. Surely, putting bowings in scores just for the sake of thoroughness (or whatever else) without caring much about any particular outcome is overkill.
However, I’m intrigued by @harryfiddler‘s comparison to fingerings on a piano. Is it true that one “wouldn’t presume to dictate fingering”? Schenker’s Art of Performance describes a variety of ways in which performance issues can relay interpretive information and may therefore may facilitate a more accurate conveyance of a composer’s intent (supposing an appropriate interpretation). Schenker’s editions of the Beethoven piano sonatas are not merely clean copies; they are interpretations. Fingerings matter because they can facilitate the portrayal of grouping and signaling information to audience members (as my Keyboard Harmony students are [hopefully] well aware).
Are not bowings akin to fingerings in this sense? The selection of bowings is an interpretation of sorts. If a composer puts in bowing markings that seem unnatural to a string player, could it sometimes be that the string player simply does not understand the music the way it was intended? I have no doubt that unnatural bowings may actually hinder an accurate portrayal, despite the intentions of the composer. And yet, is it so awful for string players that they do not wish to even try the bowings suggested by a composer “unless you have played the instrument you are bowing for for at least 30 years”?